I’ll be honest when I say I was a little nervous when Japanese restaurant Obentos said they were planning on making some changes. Since this healthy, easy restaurant concept first opened in Central Park, I’ve been back time and time again and never saw a need to change what was already wonderful.
But Obentos is keeping up with Beijing’s unstoppable pace and this expansion is not only an opportunity to reach northeast Beijingers with a spacier, more comfortable space, they’re also out to prove to Beijingers once again just how good healthy can taste with a whole new menu. They’ve really outdone themselves this time and I couldn’t be prouder.
The little Obentos in Central Park is little no more. The new space has the same warm feeling of the original Central Park location, but you can triple the size and appreciate the sleek and updated new design. This is not longer just a go-to option for a quick and healthy lunch, these digs are worthy of a dinner out with friends and even your next date night!
Main Dining Area
Though the new branch is impressive, I was much more blown away by the new menu. My first taste was at the December 2015 BJ FOoDiEs monthly charity dinner and as soon as I came back from Christmas in California on a health kick, I came knocking on Obentos’ door for more. Over the course of these meals, I’ve pretty much checked off all the boxes on their new menu and encourage you to do the same!
Smoothies to Start! Bitter Green (L) + Very Berry (R) (RMB 34 for small, 42 for Large)
As expected, the Very Berry smoothie is a crowd pleaser. Very invigorating, packed with berries making it a little bit tart and a little bit sweet. This smoothie will go down as a real treat in the summer!
Bitter greens on the other hand is another story. I have to give credit to Obentos for putting this on the menu. It won’t be popular but it is a lot more healthy than any juice that is packed full of fruit (and therefore sugar)! If you are looking for a vegetable hit, this is a great option even if it is a bit bitter going down.
Small Plate: Roasted Pumpkin, Quinoa, Yuzu Miso (RMB 42)
Pretty much love anything with pumpkin, so I knew I’d be a fan of this dish, but the crispy quinoa brought this dish to another level of pumpkin-craze. Fantastic combination of textures.
Small Plate: Grilled Broccoli, Konbu Butter, Snow Peas & Roe (RMB 42)
Served cold but pre-grilled, the broccoli was soft and had a nice char-grilled taste. The combination of flavors made for a nice, buttery salad and the bit of ikura fish roe was a nice touch.
Small Plate: Sake Kale, Bitter Leaves & Miso (RMB 38)
Greens should always aspire to look this gorgeous and then maybe more people would eat them more often. The crispy kale chips on top are 50 shades of green and a sight for sore eyes. Beneath is a bed of bitter leaves, which are undoubtedly bitter, but it helps if you dunk it in the miso spread.
Small Plate: Mackerel, Wasabi Avocado, Dashi Jelly (RMB 58)
The wasabi avocado here is really moreish. Obentos needs to make this into a spread so that I can smother everything in it. As for the rest of the dish, it really depends on whether or not you like oily fish. The mackerel is great, but it does polarise opinion. Also a little difficult to eat without a knife (same goes for the eel main plate below).
Small Plate: Seared Tuna, Black Vinegar & Whipped Tofu (RMB 82)
Seared tuna in all her glory. Simple and straight-forward, the tuna speaks for itself and the rest is just there to compliment the star ingredient. I forgot this the surrounding rim of white dots were actually whipped tofu and actually thought it was mashed potato. In any case, I know this dish was a winner because it was gone in a flash.
Main Plate: Grilled Eel, Eggplant, Pickled Ginger (RMB 102)
Strong, bold flavors that work really nicely together. I loved the eggplant, the eel is done very well and the pickled ginger gives it a nice kick. This is the first seeing all three of these ingredients combined and was pleasantly surprised. Only caveat is that there are no knives and the eel is sliced into long strips, which isn’t the most chopstick-friendly dish.
Main Plate: Miso Chicken Ochazuke & Oyster Mushroom (RMB 68)
Served with a small jar filled with broth on the side, this is the dish post-pouring. With everything swimming in a shallow pool of delicate broth, you can let all the ingredients sit and soak it up. But that also means that this dish is very filling with a substantial portion of brown rice. Good or bad thing, it is worth noting that this is the first time we saw carbs in any of the main plates we ordered.
Main Plate: Braised Pork, Daikon & Water Chestnut (RMB 82)
Juicy and tender like a Japanese hongshao rou 红烧肉. Melted into bliss and was gone far too quickly.
Main Plate: Seared Salmon, Cabbage Salad & Yuzu (RMB 92)
Seared to a nice crisp on top, just how I like it. Generous portion and the cabbage salad and yuzu were a nice complement to the tender, savoury salmon.
Main Plate: Beef Tenderloin, Wasabi Spinach, Mushroom & Yuzu Miso (RMB 98)
The beef is beautifully done, but if you aren’t a fan of wasabi, then this is not the dish for you. The spinach is very spicy and was a shock to the sinuses! Perhaps a bit more over-powering than it ought to be so I couldn’t bring myself to finish all the spinach, but I certainly cleared off every last bit of the beef and ‘shrooms.
Side: Apple Mustard + Sweet Potato (RMB 18)
Probably my favorite side dish of all, this is the first time I’ve had sweet potato with a subtle spice to balance the sweetness. A brilliant contrast of flavors, I will be coming back for this one again soon.
Bean Salad & Lemon Sour Glaze (RMB 18)
Love the beans, less loved the lemon. A bit strong on the sour end of the spectrum.
Side: Lotus, Mixed Mushrooms & Ponzu (RMB 18)
A solid side dish with two of my favorite vegetable combos. Personally I’d like a little more zing in the ponzu sauce, but I know that’s not to everyone’s taste.
Side: Avocado Salad & Vinegar (RMB 34)
At first I thought they brought me a dish I hadn’t ordered. Rest assured, all the avos are just below the bed of shredded lettuce. I really enjoyed this dish. It doesn’t look much when it comes out, but there is a little bit of everything – crunchy and mushy, creamy but with a bit of punch, it really surprised me (in a pleasantly surprised kind of way).
Overall, Obentos has some great additions to the menu and a much more sociable development too. Almost all of these dishes are designed to be shared with friends and hats off to the Obentos team for absolutely killing it on the dish presentation front.
This is the future of Obentos, which makes 2016 already a very promising start for a healthier, happier you (and me!)!
Obentos Contact Details:
- Address: B1-109 Grand Summit Phase 2, Liangmaqiao Chaoyang District
- (Take indoor entrance’s escalator downstairs or outside escalator by Baker & Spice)
- B1-109 官舍 2期, 亮马桥, 朝阳区
- Tel: +86 8531 5098
Central Park 新城国际:
- Address: Just west of The Place Cafe in Central Park, Unit 106-107, Bldg 9, Central Park, 6 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District, 朝阳区朝阳门外大街新城国际9号楼106-107室
- Tel: 6597 0085, 6597 0223
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.